Angela Harris, '86, Interviewed About Her New Book, Presumed Incompetent

Presumed Incompetent is a courageous, ground-breaking book by women of color that exposes the destructive secret of academia: Universities frequently are biased against bestowing tenure on professors who are not white and of the upper and middle classes. Not only that, nonwhites - people who have worked their way up in higher education from the lower classes - and LGBTQ academics, in general, are frequently looked down upon, viewed as not being as competent as white "members of the club." They are considered - in many cases - "trophy hires" to meet diversity goals, but let go before receiving tenure.

Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week Editor Mark Karlin recently interviewed Presumed Incompetent coeditor Angela P. Harris, a law professor at the University of Califonia at Davis, about the challenges facing nonwhite and nonheterosexual academics and the increasing impact of the corporatization of universities:

Karlin: What was the motivation of you and your Presumed Incompetent coeditors to debunk the general public perception of universities as liberal bastions of academia that embrace professors on merit without regard to gender, class, race or sexual orientation?

Harris: To be honest, we were motivated by our own personal experiences. As women of color faculty ourselves, all of us had faced the "presumption of incompetence" in our own lives, and we suspected the four of us were not alone. We hoped that pulling together a collection of empirical studies, literature reviews and personal stories and essays would help other individual women who were struggling, as well as providing a resource for administrators and others who have power to change procedures and affect the culture of their institutions.

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